White House gets second barrier, security buffer following fence jumping incidents

White House gets second barrier, security buffer following fence jumping incidents
The US Secret Service has erected a second fence and increased its presence around the White House after two people scaled the 7.5-foot tall fence surrounding the White House this month, one of whom was able to enter the building.

On Monday, the agency in charge of the president’s protection began erecting a series of temporary metal crowd-control barricades running parallel to the permanent wrought-iron fence for about 400 feet along Pennsylvania Avenue. There is an eight-foot buffer between the two defensive barriers.

Alleged White House fence jumper Omar Gonzalez, 42, is shown in this New River Regional Jail booking photo (Reuteres/New River Regional Jail/Handout)

"This temporary closure is in effect while the Secret Service conducts a comprehensive review of the fence jumping incident," agency spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Leary was referring to the Friday night incident in which a man with a knife managed to make it inside the executive mansion.

Omar Gonzalez, a 42-year-old decorated Iraq War veteran, breached the security fence surrounding the heavily-guarded White House grounds, ran to the north portico door and entered the building. He was quickly apprehended and arrested by the Secret Service.

According to a criminal complaint, Gonzalez wanted to warn President Barack Obama – who had left the White House grounds with his daughters not long before the security breach – of a “falling atmosphere.” First Lady Michelle Obama was not in the building, either.

Less than 24 hours later, a man drove up to a White House gate, causing street closures around the area, Bloomberg reported. He did not breach the park-like grounds around the mansion.

Earlier this month, a 26-year-old New York state man with mental disabilities was detained for trespassing on White House grounds. Jeffrey Grossman was stopped by the Secret Service after he climbed over the fence. He was wearing a Pokemon shirt and hat, and carried a doll of the Pokemon character Pikachu.

Grossman’s mother, Cathy, said her son had gone to an out-of-state hospital to admit himself for mental health treatment, but he was unable to do so based on his healthcare coverage. Upon further inquiry as to why he could not get help, he was told that is not how the healthcare system in the US worked, and that he should talk to the president about it. He then traveled to Washington, she said.

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“I was informed that, when he was apprehended, he told security that he had come to talk with the president about his healthcare program,” Grossman’s mom told the Troy Record.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) demanded a full investigation into the Gonzalez incident and called for a congressional hearing to ensure that changes are made.

"There can be a lot of conspiracies against a President. A lot of very complex assassination plots," King said on Fox News. "This is the most basic, the most simple type of procedure and how anyone, especially in these days of ISIS, and we're concerned about terrorist attacks, someone could actually get into the White House without being stopped is inexcusable."

In a statement from White House on Saturday night, spokesman Frank Benenati said the president expressed his support for the Secret Service.

"The president has full confidence in the Secret Service and is grateful to the men and women who day in and day out protect himself, his family and the White House," the statement read.

"The Secret Service is in the process of conducting a thorough review of the event on Friday evening, and we are certain it will be done with the same professionalism and commitment to duty that we and the American people expect from the USSS."

A Secret Service spokesman told the Washington Post on Monday afternoon that he was not sure whether the agency had requested changes to the permanent fence and would not be able to answer the question without more research.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he had heard suggestions to bolster the White House defenses, but none had been formally proposed to Congress.

“I think there was an assumption that any intruder scaling the fence would be met with overwhelming force, immediately. That’s obviously not the case,” Chaffetz told the Post.

“There are probably things that you could do to the top of the fence — without further impeding the public’s view of the White House — that would slow a would-be terrorist down or make it more difficult” to scale, he added.

However, according to Bloomberg, the Secret Service has said that adding barbed wire to the wrought-iron fence is not an option.